RECORD REVIEWS, JUNE - DECEMBER 2016
THE ADVERTS. Bored Teenagers 7” ( ? ) Three live tracks taken from the soundtrack of the German film ‘Brennende Langeweile’ (‘Bored Teenagers’.) Rarely seen outside Germany, the film centres around The Adverts brief German tour in 1978 and includes some great performance footage. These tracks, ‘Gary Gilmores Eyes’, ‘Television’s Over’ and ‘The Great German Mistake’ are raw and probably not the best sound-quality, but really capture the spirit and energy of the band. They were often accused of not being able to play, but they pushed themselves to the limits of their ability to create and perform songs like these, which combined both poignant lyrics with basic but always imaginative music. With only a limited amount of original Adverts material in existence, an addition like this is always going to be welcome !
AIR KNIVES. S/T CD (www.facebook.com/AirKnives) New band from Portland featuring Colin Sears (Dag Nasty) and Christian Harvey (Handgun Bravado) who take a more post-punk direction, recalling the likes of The Sound and The Chameleons as well as the more melodic moments of the post-hardcore DC scene. Self-released and self-produced, this album has a very accomplished sound that is powerful, emotive and also very accessible. I’m afraid I don’t have too much information about the band themselves, but there is a second album on it’s way in 2017 and they have been playing shows locally, so hopefully the next record will encourage them to go a bit further afield and give the rest of us a chance to see them. This is a really interesting and enjoyable record that suggests that they we should all be paying attention.
BACKSEAT ANGELS. Saturday Night Shakes CD (Rum Bar) Unashamed pop that mixes new wave charm (The Jags) and Sixties-influenced powerpop (The Nerves) together with more recent American pop-punk (Chixdiggit, Screeching Weasel.) Songs about girls, cars and rock’n’roll, with lyrics that could have come from an episode of ‘Happy Days’. This is music that just wants to have a good time and there’s not much wrong with that. Simple, catchy songs that will have you tapping your foot before you even know about it. Fun for funs’ sake !
BARSTOOL PREACHERS. Blatant Propaganda CD (Bar Stool Preachers Records) Debut album from a young, enthusiastic band that manages to balance underground, street-punk cred with an honest, accessible attitude. Not an easy task, as it’s often difficult to craft music that can reach a wider audience whilst maintaining the passion and emotion necessary to convince the listener of your roots and intent, but this Brighton-based band seem to have done just that. Musically, it’s a mix of The Clash, The Specials and more recent bands like Rancid, but they add their own style and pace to the proceedings to ensure that it’s both catchy and tense. Lyrically, they sing tales of everyday life and familiar characters, avoiding clichéd slogans and staying on a genuine level. There’s humour alongside more thoughtful moments and it works really well. This is a very impressive debut and promises a lot more for the future. Keep an eye and an ear open for this band !
BIG BUSINESS. Command Your Weather CD (Joyful Noise) Possibly best known for their ongoing collaboration with the Melvins, Big Business are also very much a band in their own right, albeit it just the two-piece combo of Jared Warren and Coady Willis. Formed around their drums, vocals and bass guitar, you’d be forgiven for thinking the format could be quite limited, but this duo certainly know how to bring out the best from their instruments. Using volume to draw out the tones, harmonics and presence of the sound, they create an almost symphonic soundscape which, combined with an imaginative production, gives the album multiple layers and dimensions. Unlike the Melvins, they’re also happy to let the rhythmic tempos increase as and when necessary, allowing the music to build organically rather than remaining at a measured pace. This is an album full of possibilities and the directions they take offer even more for the future. It’s a fine record and one that you really should hear for yourself.
biG Grunt. In Session EP (Mega Dodo) Following the demise of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band in 1970, their legendary vocalist Vivian Stanshall followed-up a one-off single as the Sean Head Showband with the formation of a new band, biG Grunt, alongside fellow Bonzo’s Dennis Gowan and Roger Ruskin Spear, plus previous associates Bubs White, Borneo Fred Munt and Ian Wallace. Although the bands initial live performances were well-received, they were not destined to fulfil their potential and eventually ended a year later when the Bonzo’s reunited. Unfortunately. they never released an album of their own and this lone Peel Session form 1971 is their only real legacy, but it certainly shows how much fun they could have been. Continuing on from the Bonzo’s unique style, biG Grunt combined Stanshall’s genuinely eccentric sense of humour with his idiosyncratic vocal delivery and the bands’ musical prowess. The first track ‘Blind Date’ is an almost lounge-style tale of a Gorilla’s romantic tryst with a pygmy (apparently first envisioned when Stanshill was approached to write a song for the oldie’n’moldie Matt Munro.) ‘11 Mustachioed Daughters’ is a reworked version of a former Bonzo track, while ‘The Strain’ was an original which would later be incorporated into their reunion (it’s an attempt by Stanshill to initiate a new dance craze inspired by visits to the toilet – a companion piece to Screaming Jay Hawkins’ ‘Constipation Blues’, perhaps ?) The final track ‘Cyborg Signal’ is an instrumental that takes elements of the ‘freakout’ genre popular during the late Sixties put puts it in a much more melodic, almost pop setting. All four tracks are great fun and really make me wish there was more to hear (there are rumours of unreleased recordings.) Stanshill was a rare talent, extending his collaborations from the Monty Python team through to Eric Clapton, Keith Moon and even The Damned. If you’re in anyway interested in real character, make sure that you hear this EP.
BLUE AEROPLANES. Welcome, Stranger ! CD (Art Star) Having formed in Bristol during the early Eighties, the Blue Aeroplanes have become something of an indie-pop-rock institution, long before the likes of Oasis reduced the genre to the lowest common denominator it now is. Gerard Langley’s half-spoken vocals have influenced many others in subsequent years, with an almost poetic approach to the imagery that he conjures. Musically, they refer to Sixties psych-pop, with understated rhythms providing a platform for insistent melodies and harmonic choruses. It’s no surprise that in their time they’ve hit the charts, been signed to major labels and maintained a loyal following, which finds them in a healthy position to release their twelfth studio album. Perhaps they never gained the success that others have had, but they’ve stuck to their own route, never compromised their style and always kept their fans more than happy. At the end of the day, Blue Aeroplanes still have credibility and continue to release well-received albums after more than 30 years, which is an achievement that none can scoff at.
BODY TO THE TIDE. Lay Down, Way Down. Demo (soundcloud.com/body-to-the-tide) Brighton-based trio who recall the likes of early-Nirvana, Melvins and Helmet, with huge repetitive riffs drawn out over incessant rhythms. Second track ‘Life Away’ continues the heavy, fuzzed-out approach but also combines a catchy melody throughout. It makes me think of that point in time before Sub Pop became a brand and before ‘grunge’ was a fashion-shoot, when the bands just cared about making the kind of noise that they loved regardless of the record companies. This is good stuff, it sounds authentic and enthusiastic, which makes it well-worth checking out.
BROKEN BONES. Vigilante EP (Dr Strange.) Broken Bones were formed by brothers Bones and Tezz Roberts after they had left Discharge and I saw them a few times in the mid-Eighties. They were a much better prospect than the Discharge line-up of the same era, but still tended to be a bit too Heavy Metal for my tastes, so I have to admit, I didn’t follow them over the years. Which makes this EP all the more impressive. It still mixes punk and metal influences, but does so in a much more accomplished style, recalling Motorhead, the MC5, Metallica and hardcore in an effective and confident mix. Having been a major influence on the original punk-metal crossover scene, in both the UK and America, it’s great to hear them coming back with something as strong as this. These four songs have just the right balance and I’m sure will appeal to old fans while gaining a whole new audience as well. I’m surprised that I enjoyed this so much – be sure to check it out for yourself.
WILLIAM S.BURROUGHS. Let Me Hang You CD (Khannibalist) While the written volumes of William Burroughs, in particular ‘Naked Lunch’, can prove to be a bit difficult to get into, his spoken word recordings have always been a much better way to access his work. His voice had the perfect Southern drawl to convey the stories and the humour becomes much more obvious when you hear how he stresses, dramatises and unlocks his word horde. His work had many purposes, particularly the breaking-down of control systems and the encouragement of the individual to realise and understand things for themselves, but at the same time, he also meant the tales to be entertaining and went to some lengths to perfect his readings. Admittedly, some of the material was, and still remains, shocking and extreme by mass media standards, but this was the first step in many ways. If you couldn’t see through the sensationalism to consider the statements actually made, then you were unlikely to make any further progress. In truth, far from the purveyor of prurient material that detractors try to portray, Burroughs was actually a skilled satirist, as many of the pieces on this album display. The saga of AJ and his entourage remains valid, if admittedly exaggerated for comic effect. The concept of ‘Islam Inc’ probably isn’t far from the truth, and his tales of Clem Snide or Dr Brubeck are wonderfully-crafted routines. These recordings were made shortly before Burroughs’ death in 1997 and originally set to minimal musical soundtrack courtesy of producer Hal Wilner. However, it was not until 2015 that the tapes were reviewed and the musical production completed with the involvement of, among others, underground blues-punk legend King Khan. The final results provide a perfect accompaniment for Burroughs’ readings, never overshadowing the text but creating an ideal, unsettling atmosphere for the words to take their course. Burroughs remains one of the greatest literary figures of the Twentieth Century and, if you haven’t already investigated his legacy, this may well be a good place to start. If you’re already enjoy his work, it will similarly prove to be a highly entertaining addition to your collection.
COIL. London Conway Hall 2002 LP (East West) Presumably taken directly from the scarce CD released by Coil themselves, this is a great recording of their one-off performance at the Megalithomania event. Coil did not play live very often and when they did, it was usually pretty spectacular. This occasion was certainly one of those events, with a spine chilling, atmospheric piece (necessarily split into two parts for vinyl purposes) that celebrates the mythos of the megatlith builders, unknown but eternal. To try and describe the sounds they create defeats the purpose. This is something that has to be experienced and as much as this recording is impressive, I just wish I had been at the concert itself. Supposedly limited to 349 copies, so be sure to snap-up a copy of this album as soon as you have the chance.
THE CRAMPS. The King Is Back !!! LP (Connoisseur) A great collection of live tracks, radio sessions and On Air interviews made at the time of the 1986 UK tour that celebrated the release of ‘A Date With Elvis’. If anyone still clings to the misguided belief that the band lost their way after the departure of Bryan Gregory, this should put you right once and for all. Lux’s voice is stronger than ever, Ivy’s guitar produces one of the greatest sounds ever heard in rock’n’roll, and the rhythm section holds the chaos in check (just…) Their mischievous sense of humour is evident as Lux explains to radioland just what the leper said to the prostitute, and Ivy effortlessly tackles accusations of sexism. Great cover and excellent material. I really miss these guys. Give yourself a treat and track this down !
THE CRAMPS. Hungry 7” (Teenage Psycho) Two tracks taken from the ‘On Broadway’ gig in San Francisco 1981, so there’s a fair chance you may already have them on other releases, but if not they’re well worth checking out. Backed with a version of ‘Hanky Panky’, this is The Cramps enjoying themselves as they play these covers in their own inimitable style. Great sound quality and an excellent cartoon- illustration sleeve. As I said, it’s not essential if you already have one of the previous bootlegs of the entire gig, but if you haven’t heard them before, this is a great way to check out these rare tracks.
THE CRAMPS. Volkhaus, Zurich 1986 LP (East/West) Supposedly a radio broadcast, though I suspect it may be an audience recording. Either way, it is rather good sound quality, capturing the band during the ‘Date With Elvis’ tour, playing a whole load of new material alongside a good selection of older favourites. Lux sounds as if he’s having fun, while Ivy’s guitar-playing is as awesome as it ever was. Supposedly pressed in China (yeah, right) the album comes on neat purple-splatter vinyl, complete with an obi-strip in a clear PVC sleeve. Not one of the essential Cramps recordings, but a nice one nonetheless.
THE CRAVATS. Jingo Bells 7” (Overground) I am so glad to say that, when I interviewed The Cravats and they told me they were not going to be recording any new material, they were lying !!! And here’s the first results ! Two brand new songs that sound as if they were never away. Quirky, punky, surreal and invigorating, they never sounded like anyone else and they still don’t. The Shend’s unique vocal delivery tells tales that hint at underhand things going on, but it’s up to you to interpret. Svor Naan wails his saxophone throughout the proceedings and the new chaps do a fine job in keeping up with the oddly- timed rhythms. Trust me, this will make you want to dance, if only you can figure out how ? It’s so good to have them back in the vinyl race again.
THE CRAVATS. Blurred 7” (Overground) You wait 30 years for a new Cravats single, and then two come along at (practically) the same time ! As with its’ recent predecessor, this lovely piece of circular plastic captures the classic Cravats sound, although if anything, these two songs are even more accomplished. ‘Blurred’ has a deceptively tempered pace that bursts into noisy interludes that some would call choruses (there’s nothing quite so simple in the land of Cravats.) The opposite side of the disc presents ‘Bigband’ that, instead of recalling the era of Duke Ellington etc, is a manic melee of thrashy, trashy syncopation. I wasn’t expecting all this sudden activity from The Cravats, but I’m so glad that it’s happened. Let’s hope they keep at it !
CROWBAR. The Serpent Only Lies CD (Steamhammer) I’m surprised that I haven’t come across this band before now, as they’ve been releasing albums for several decades and something as heavy as this would be hard to miss. On this album, the New Orleans band produce an onslaught of powerful, doom-laden riffs, forced forward at a gruelling but always compelling pace, like Black Sabbath slowed-down to their ultimate grind. That being said, they’re not afraid to speed-up the tempo when it’s called for, providing the perfect contrast to the slower moments. Indeed, at times they even combine speedy drums rhythms with meticulously-tempered Melvins style riffs to very impressive effect. The vocals are growled over the tracks in a perfect lyrical assimilation of the music itself, refusing any respite to the listener until the very end. If you enjoy your metal sounding like an aural equivalent of a bulldozer, this is an album that you’re going to love.
THE DAMNED. Get It On LP ( ? ) A fine set recorded in Portsmouth on the last date of their tour supporting TRex, in March 1977. It’s a mixing desk tape so the sound quality is pretty clear and steady, capturing the original line-up at their best – raw, chaotic, exciting and totally unapologetic. They rip their way through tracks from the first album and singles, starting with a furious version of ‘I Feel Alright’, tripping-up on their first attempt of ‘New Rose’ before nailing it seconds later, and giving ‘Help’ the kick up its’ arse that it was always asking for. The real gem is the addition of the TRex encore, an extended version of ‘Get It On’ that features The Damned onstage alongside an obviously enthusiastic Marc Bolan. Both sides have a clearly intuitive sense of each others’ music and it’s a truly historic moment. Sadly, this was to be one of Bolan’s last gigs before his untimely death, but this really shows how he genuinely embraced the new music scene of 76/77. This isn’t just an album for Damned fans, everyone should give it a listen !
DATURA 4. Hairy Mountain CD (Alive) Australian hard rock outfit that channel the heaviest grooves of the early Seventies through the more compelling riffs of the grunge years to create driving, repetitive rhythms that will crawl their way into your consciousness. They deliver a psychedelic-flavoured blend of Blues and Boogie, employing both fuzztone and slide guitars to full effect. Wisely, they opt for a more down-to-earth vocal style rather than the type of histrionics that ruin so many hard rock bands. If anything, the vocals here are more in line with the likes of Mark Arm or Rob Tyner, which to my mind makes the whole thing a lot more effective. Similarly, the production also maintains a lot of clarity rather than just going for overload, which allows you to really enjoy and appreciate what’s going on. It’s a great mix of styles that brings everything into the moment. Certainly an album that deserves to be played loud.
DEAD KENNEDYS. The Whole World Has Gone Down The Toilet LP (Dungeon) It’s been a while since any new Dead Kennedys bootlegs have surfaced, so this was a nice find. Featuring a great full colour cover, you get a mixing-desk quality live recording from Eugene, Oregon in late 1984, featuring 15 songs that span the original career of the band. There are seven tracks that were unreleased at the time of this performance, including song from ‘Frankenchrist’ and ‘Bedtime For Democracy’ plus the satirical cover of ‘I Fought The Law’. In many ways, it’s this material that is most interesting ton hear, as the band were destined not to return to Europe with any of that material. But, at the same time, there are also a bunch of their earlier more familiar songs to keep everyone happy. ‘I Kill Children’, ‘Let’s Lynch the Landlord’ and ‘Riot’ are absolutely stunning, even despite the fluctuating mix. Overall, it’s still a real pleasure to hear recordings like this, even if only to remind you how much this band meant before all of the recent squabbling.
DEALING WITH DAMAGE. Navigating The Middle Ground EP (dealingwithdamage.bandcamp.co ) New band featuring former members of Sink, K-Line and Done Lying Down, presenting their first six tracks online for the highly generous price of £3.00. Trust me, these songs are worth every penny ! Opening track ‘Some Colours Never Fade’ recalls Down By Law at their best, while ‘When I Grow Up’ instils a more English punk-sound into the proceedings. Other tracks recall moments from the Dischord catalogue during the mid-late Eighties era, while ‘Let The Mystery Be’ slows things down to an almost countrified-pace but works as a perfect foil to the other, more uptempo tunes. Ed Wenn delivers one of the most confident set of vocals he’s ever recorded, while the guitars sound suitably big and the rhythm section holds everything in place with a steady yet imaginative style. It’ll be a tragic waste if this set of songs doesn’t end up with a full release on vinyl, but in the meantime, hear them online and tell all your friends about it !
DESCENDENTS. Hypercaffium Spazzinate LP (Epitaph) They may take their time between albums, but it’s always worth the wait. Sixteen tracks clocking-in at just over thirty minutes, but the quality more than makes up for the brevity. Great tunes, great lyrics, superb musicianship and, of course, Milo’s inimitable vocals. Often copied, perhaps, but no-one gets near to the deal when these guys come together. They may have made their name singing ‘I Like Food’, but now they have to deal with reality with ‘No Fat Burger’. Their humour is still intact, also evident in the infectious ‘On Paper’, but so are there deeper moments, including of the best lyrics they’ve ever written. Don’t believe me ? Just check out ‘Shameless Halo’, ‘Without Love’ or ‘Spineless and Scarlet Red’. I could go on rambling about how great this album is, but all you really need to do is hear it for yourself. If it doesn’t blow you away, you’re probably beyond redemption. And as if this platter isn’t enough, you can also buy…
DESCENDENTS. Spazzhazard EP (Epitaph) A limited edition, five song 12” featuring tracks that easily match the best moments from the album rather than being mere leftovers. Overdosed on caffeine, these songs will buzz around your head for days on end, until you’re bouncing off the walls just like the tunes themselves. And it gets better… all five songs fit one side of the vinyl so there’s room for a neat etching on the other side ! Sounds great, looks great, limited edition… what are you waiting for ?
DESERT MOUNTAIN TRIBE. Either That or The Moon CD (Membran) I was a bit late in hearing this album, but it’s still worth mentioning (especially as a new vinyl pressing has just been made available.) It’s an epic of contemporary psych-rock, recalling The God Machine at their very best or the more interesting moments of Janes Addiction, with perhaps a few hints of Loop or Spaceman 3 for good measure. Great, simplistic riffs battle to be heard within the layers of reverb while the vocals are echoed around the stereo like Damo Suzuki trying to front Hawkwind (not such a bad idea, actually…) They have a lot of potential to cross over between a mainstream rock audience and a more experimental, adventurous path. I really hope they take it. This debut shows that they have the initial talent to take things further and, at a time when bands seem intent on playing a safe hand, it’ll be great if an album like this gets to shake things up.
DESTRUCTORS The Somme CD (Rowdy Farrago) A commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the blood / mud-bath that was the Battle of the Somme. A mix of hard punk and hard rock, owing as much to the likes of Motorhead (whose ‘1916’ is covered here) and Metallica as it does to the likes of Discharge or the Pistols. The Destructors have a history that goes a long way back, beyond the usual Punk clichés, which allows them to bring far more diverse influences and sounds to the table. With the anti-war tracks inter-linked with chants and echoes of First World War songs, this album builds a suitably skewed atmosphere, recalling those who willingly went to their horrific deaths as a result of their respective governments’ propaganda. The only thing that lets the proceedings down are the cover versions (‘Eton Rifles’, ‘1916’, and ‘War’.) The first two are appropriate choices, only let down by the fact that the original versions can’t be matched, while ‘War’ is such a departure that it doesn’t really fit-in with the rest of the album. But that’s a small fault in an otherwise fine and worthy statement. This is one that needs to be heard.
THE EMBROOKS. Nightmare 7” (State) Kent-based ‘freak-beat’ combo who have returned to the studio after a decade-long break. That being said, they certainly haven’t lost any of their original verve, with this single blasting out with two songs that are amongst the best they’ve ever committed to vinyl. ‘Nightmare’ is a brash, upbeat chunk of psychedelic garage that bounces along with an insanely catchy melody, while ‘Helen’ on the flipside is a deceptive piece of reverb-soaked Sixties-style guitar pop with occasional shards of fuzz-guitar thrown-in to keep you on your toes. There are very few bands who can replicate this kind of style without making it sound purely nostalgic. However, when The Embrooks play these songs, you know that they really mean it and that’s what keeps this record vital and timeless. Exciting, exhilarating and fun, this is what pop music is supposed to be about !
ENEMIES. Valuables CD (Top Shelf) Irish band who create a brand of pop-rock that recalls both the understated textures of slo-mo math rock bands like Radar Brothers and the inventive pomp rock of Radiohead. It’s the kind of album that suggests the band could go forward in pretty opposing directions, either embracing a more commercial but probably less interesting sound, or following their instrumental instincts and really developing their mix of melody and innovation. With this album, they seem intent on making themselves accessible without compromising their ideas, material or production. The results are not instantly infectious, but repeated listens will draw you into their sound and it soon becomes enthralling. It will be interesting to see where they go from here, because they certainly have many possibilities in front of them. In the meantime, investigate this album for yourself and see if you can become part of their soundscape.
ESP OHIO. Starting Point of The Royal Cyclopean LP (GBV Inc) When most fans refer to the ‘classic’ Guided By Voices line-up, they talking about the band prior to ‘Mag Earwig’, featuring Bob Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell et al. Now, while I would never be so ungrateful as to criticize that version of the band, I do have to say that the later line-up featuring Bob, Doug Pollard, Nate Farley, Tim Tobias (and several great drummers) was certainly just as wonderful, albeit it in a different way. They rocked ! Whereas the original GBV were the lo-fi experts, the later line-up combined the live prowess of The Who and Cheap Trick with the inventiveness of Wire and Devo to create something that was equal-parts accessible and adventurous. So this album, the first to combine the talents of Bob and Doug for many years, is something I’d been hoping for ever since GBV were reactivated. It may not be one of their greatest records, but it’s certainly a great record. Doug’s guitar playing is the perfect foil for Pollards’ grasp of melody and playful lyricism. It’s fun and it moves in a really positive way. Every time I listen to it, I get more engrossed, loving the way the riffs burrow into your brain. This may have been a situation where Bob and Doug were getting back into the groove, but it works really well and with Doug back in the GBV scheme of things, I can only expect even greater things to come. Bring back Nate ! And play in the UK again soon ! I know it won’t be the same, but who knows, it may even be better than ever !
FAITH NO MORE. We Care A Lot (Deluxe Band Edition) CD (Kool Arrow) Most of the original FNM albums have been reissued in ‘deluxe’ editions recently, but I haven’t been very interested in them as, in reality, the original albums remain pretty much the same and the additional material has only involved various b-sides and remixes that have been previously available. However, this reissue is another prospect altogether. The first FNM album remains their least known (it was originally issued by independent label Mordam) but regardless of that fact, still includes three of my favourite songs (‘Mark Bowen’, ‘As The Worm Turns’ and ‘Why Do You Bother’) as well as the original version of ‘We Care A Lot’ itself. It was initially released before the CD format dominated the market and was never mixed digitally, so this is the first time it’s been properly remastered for either format and it truly sounds even better, with the clarity and power it always deserved. That in itself is worth the purchase, but with the band being directly involved, the additional album of previously unreleased material is the true bonus. Three original tracks are totally remixed to great effect, four original demo’s are included for the first time, and there’s even two songs recorded live in San Francisco prior to the recording of the album. From a fan’s perspective, this is what makes these ‘deluxe’ reissues worthwhile and, when you consider the albums’ more-limited availability over the years, this really is a release that is well-worth reinvestigating. I just hope that at some point in the future, the band are able to issue expanded versions of their other albums put together with the same care and attention. This is what we want !
FREEDUMB. Feeding the Tapeworm CD (Tonehjulet Kraftpest) I received this CD in the post with almost no information about the band, apart from the fact that they come from Norway. Having done a bit of research, I’ve discovered that they’re a three piece band who have been playing together for over ten years. As you might expect, that longevity has culminated in a strong set of songs which make up this, their first album. The ten songs are split 50/50 between English and Norwegian vocals, which makes it a bit more open towards international audiences, and although the pace stays pretty consistent throughout, the production adds both power and clarity to the bands’ efforts. Musically, they play a metallic style of hardcore that probably owes a lot to the late Eighties California crossover style, although they do give prominence more to the melodies than any metal excesses which maintains a catchy quality to the songs throughout the album. It’s a good album and certainly suggests that they’d be a great live act. I certainly hope to see and hear more from them.
THE FREEKS. Shattered CD (Heavy Psych Sounds) Trashy rock’n’roll from Los Angeles, where you would suspect it has been maturing (like a good whisky, not an adult) in back street bars for several years. This is an accomplished, convincing album that really sounds like these guys mean every note and growled-vocal of it. Front man Ruben Romano has gradually gathered this line-up together over the course of three albums and it now sounds as certain of itself as it should do. Think of how the Supersuckers may have sounded if they’d spent more time listening to Tom Waits rather than Willy Nelson. And imagine if they’d borrowed the same big-arrangement style that Rocket From the Crypt do so well. This record grabs you by the throat, but only to pull you on to the dance floor. Beyond any doubt, one of the best rock’n’roll albums I’ve heard all year. Be sure to catch this one. You can trust me, I’m your friend.
THE FREEZE. Someone’s Bleeding EP (Dr Strange.) The Freeze are one of the seminal hardcore bands usually associated with the Boston scene of the early Eighties, even though they actually came from Cape Cod. But with classic albums like ‘Land of the Lost’ and ‘Rabid Reaction’ they established a style of their own, more melodic though never any less furious than their Boston (crew) counterparts. Singer Clif Hanger may be the only constant presence since those original albums, but the band have managed to maintain standards and continuity to deliver four great new recordings (two new songs, two older ones) that will please their old fans and undoubtedly impress some new ones. This is a band who embrace their past but remain intent on taking it forward, with a bigger production and lyrics that tackle contemporary issues (in fact, I wish they’d included a lyric sheet so I could study the songs a bit further…) Rock’n’Roll, Punk, Hardcore - it doesn’t really matter what you want to call it. All you need to know is that this is one of the best records from The Freeze and you really need to hear it !
GEOFFREY OI-COTT. Incredible Shrinking Dickie Birds 7” (Boss Tuneage) I have to admit, I sometimes prefer the idea of Geoffrey Oi-Cott more than their actual releases. Not that the records are bad, but the concepts can occasionally overwhelm the actual music. Such is the case here – a superb 7” picture release that features a pastiche of the classic ‘Incredible Shrinking Dickies’ album cover, now re-imagined with a cricket theme. It’s so well done that the actual songs almost become secondary ! Which is a shame, because their street-punk humour and tunes are pretty damn catchy and it’s not as if you wouldn’t enjoy their records in their own right. But either way, I love this record !
THE GHOSTS OF LOVERS, CD (Angels in Exile) Another great retrospective from this fine label, this time collecting together the complete studio recordings of this underrated Glam-punk band. Formed in London during the early Nineties, the band came together due to mutual admiration of bands like Lords of the New Church, Hanoi Rocks and, of course, Johnny Thunders. The core of their music is very much rock’n’roll, but with a sleazy punk attitude that gives it a real edge rather than going for the more-commercial but less-interesting metal route. Although mostly made-up of demo recordings (there are also a few bonus tracks recorded live during rehearsals) this is a very solid, cohesive set which really made me wonder just how far they could have gone had they ever been given a chance to record a full album with an appropriate producer ? Sadly, well never know the answer, but as an indication of what might have been, this CD is a great document of a talented band that deserve to be rediscovered.
GLITTER WIZARD. Hollow Earth Tour CD (Heavy Psych Sounds) I always enjoy getting a package of new releases from Heavy Psych, because I never know what to expect. I mean, it will be Rock and it will probably be Heavy, but from there on, you have no idea what you’re going to hear. In this case, Glitter Wizard are a Californian band self-described as ‘stoner-glam’, which in more general terms, means Seventies style hard rock influenced by the likes of Deep Purple, Ronnie James Dio and possibly a touch of early Iron Maiden, while the lyrics recall Hawkwind at their most cosmic. All of this could well be appalling if it were not performed with what seems to be a knowing sense of humour. It’s an overblown concept album but I doubt if they mean it to be taken too seriously. Like Spinal Tap, it works because they’re good enough musically to play it for real, but the emphasis is on the entertainment. Band members have names like Wendy Stonehenge and Fancy Cymbals, so I think you can figure out what they’re doing. This isn’t a ‘comedy’ record as such, but it is a lot of fun.
GONG. Rejoice ! I’m Dead ! CD (Madfish) Gong were one of those bands that I used to have to endure when I was at school. At lunchtimes, the muso’s would play fuckin’ Genesis or Pink Floyd while the pretend-hippies would try to be weird by playing Gong or Here & Now. I disliked all of it and it wasn’t until much later that I discovered that the early Pink Floyd (Syd-era) was actually rather good. I was also eventually able to put the likes of Gong into context and at least appreciated their anarchist-perspective, although the music still failed to impress me. This is the first time I’ve listened to anything by Gong for a long time and while it’s probably fair to say that it’s a lot more orthodox than much of their original work, I think that existing fans will still embrace it enthusiastically. Founding (and most consistent) member Daevid Allen sadly succumbed to cancer in 2015 but gave the current line-up his enthusiastic blessing to continue in his absence, and his voice is still heard from early rehearsal tapes as well as guest appearances from Gong-alumni such as Steve Hillage and Didier Malherbe. Musically, it’s a mix of Canterbury-scene jazz-rock, psychedelia and early-70’s free-festival tendencies that, as I’ve said before, I can now appreciate even if it’s not really my cup of tea (flying teapot or otherwise.) At the end of the day, I’m glad they’re still out there and that Daevid Allen’s legacy is being celebrated. I’ll probably not listen to it very often, but the many fans certainly will.
THE GUN CLUB. Like An Elvis From Hell LP (Hedgehog) It’s still beyond me that The Gun Club don’t receive the respect they deserve, even though many, from Nick Cave through to The Pixies, owe them a huge debt. This album features a radio broadcast recorded in San Francisco in 1981 and has all the elements that made this band so unique. With a set based around their ‘Fire of Love’ and ‘Miami’ albums, the band are tight and powerful while Jeffrey Lee Pierce takes the opportunity to stir as much chaos in to the proceedings as is possible. Their raw update of the rock’n’roll spirit could only ever be matched by The Cramps and with songs as awesome as ‘Sex Beat’, ‘She’s Like Heroin To Me’ and ‘For The Love of Ivy’, they could play sets like a true force of nature. Of course, the other end of the stick was that they could on occasion fall-apart quite spectacularly, but this album captures one of the great nights. Make sure that you hear this one, even while you’re waiting for the rest of the world to catch up.
HAGAR THE WOMB. Hagiography CD (One Bright Spark) At long last, a thorough CD compilation of Hagar The Womb material, including the original ‘Word of the Womb’ and ‘Funnery in a Nunnery’ EPs, compilation tracks, live recordings and demos, plus the three songs from their 2014 single on All The Madmen. I knew they’d been talking about doing this for years, but you have to understand that the Hags work on a different timescale to us mere mortals. And, anyway, it’s more than worth the wait. The first two EP’s were so out of time and place when they were originally released that they don’t sound dated at all, still as refreshing and vital as they always were. The live tracks, as would be expected, are a bit more chaotic, but the sound quality is surprisingly good and really adds to the proceedings, while the demo tracks (dating back to 1982) include several otherwise unreleased songs. It’s a shame that the Peel session couldn’t be included, but at least that gives us something to still hope for… Buy this CD immediately. It’s great fun and you can be assured that the band will use any profits… sensibly.
HAPPY DIVING. Electric Soul Unity CD (Topshelf) Originally formed in San Francisco during 2013, HappyDiving have managed to produce a very convincing album that recalls that grand period of the early Nineties when guitar music burst onto the scene as a brash, over-amped celebration of life (think Dinosaur Jnr, Buffalo Tom, early Nirvana) before the corporate mindset suckered the bands and labels into a play-safe agenda that left us with dull rock rather than excitement. This album has plenty of fuzz guitar and feedback but it never drowns the all-important tunes, which will catch you like a fish on a hook. In contrast, they also have quieter moments that bring the melodies to the fore, but the raw power is never far away. For full effect, I think you’d need to see this band live, so let’s keep our collective fingers crossed that we get that chance sometime soon.
HEADLINE MANIAC. S/T CD (Rod Hot) Power trio formed by three-fifths of the current Eddie & the Hot Rods line-up, namely Ian Dean, Chris Taylor and Simon Bowley. Initially put together to fill-up their spare time when the original Hot Rods reformed for a series of reunion gigs, Headline Maniac have quickly become a formidable, good rockin’ band in their own right. As you might expect, especially if you’ve seen the Hot Rods in recent years, this is a very accomplished combo, capable of blending hard rock and boogie with catchy pop-punk melodies and, of course, the inimitable Hot Rod-style high-energy rock’n’roll. That being said, they certainly don’t sound like a mere side-project and have clearly set-out to establish their own style. There are a few moments when their Hard Rock tendencies do get carried away a bit (ironically, ‘Hero’ is the biggest loser on the album) but usually they temper it all with catchy punk melodies that make sure the riffs stay in just the right place. It sounds as if they’re having fun while producing a debut that should set them up for a fan-base of their very own. Be sure to hear this or catch them live at the earliest opportunity.
STEVE HILLAGE. Searching For the Spark. CD Box Set (Madfish.) Renowned for his own albums, as well as his work with Gong and System 7, Steve Hillage has never been a mainstream performer but has maintained a high profile that has crossed the realms of rock, prog, and psychedelia. Initially playing alongside Canterbury Scene artists such as Caravan, he went on to work with the likes of Kevin Ayers and Mike Oldfield before becoming a member of Gong. Eventually departing to pursue his own recordings, he briefly worked with Nik Turner of Hawkwind and also made an unlikely guest appearance with Sham 69 at Reading Festival in 1978 ! During the Eighties, he turned his hand to production, working with the likes of Simple Minds, Robyn Hitchcock and even The Charlatans, but he eventually returned to his own music, inspired by the ambient dance scene, in the form of System 7. While he is most often associated with Prog, Hillage has always been open to new ideas and approaches and it is this which sets him apart from many of the other performers within that genre. At his best, he plays a great mix of psychedelia that verges towards Kraut rock in places and although I can’t say I’m a fan of everything that he has done, there is certainly more than enough to keep you interested. The complete box set (I only got to hear a sampler version) includes 22 discs (!) alongside a 188-page hardback book, reproduced posters, a scrapbook and more. Admittedly, this definitive-collection is directed more towards the already-dedicated fan, but any chance to investigate may prove to be well-worth your time.
HOLLYWOOD BRATS. Sick On You – Expanded CD (Cherry Red) At last, a great remastered CD version of the classic album from the ‘Brats. You should know about this album already, but it’s never too late to catch up. Originally recorded in 1973, it wasn’t actually released until 1975 (and even then, only in Norway !) It’s first UK appearance would eventually come in 1980, by which time keyboard player Casino Steel had moved on to The Boys, who had recorded ‘Sick On You’ and ‘Tumble With Me’ for their debut album, helping to establish the ‘Brats legend. Comparisons to the New York Dolls are inevitable, although in those days before instant access media, it was more a case that both bands arose independently with similar attitudes and approach, while their respective New York and London character traits made the real difference. Regardless of how you see it, the ‘Brats debut still stands as a great rock’n’roll album that pre-dated punk and really should have been huge. This reissue also includes an additional disc of previously unreleased material that’s going to be the real treat for fans. From great, raw covers of ‘I Need You’ and ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ that effortlessly out-smart the originals, through to their own songs like the rockin’ ‘I Ain’t Got You’, the bluesy ‘Truckers Lament’ and the incredible ‘Suckin’ On Suzie’. Together with a booklet featuring extensive notes and rare pictures, this is the reissue that this album has always deserved. You would be a fool to ignore it.
STEVE IGNORANT with PARANOID VISIONS. Now And Then…! LP (Overground) The second collaboration between Steve Ignorant and Dublin-based punk band Paranoid Visions. I loved the previous ‘When ?’ album but this one is even better. The big difference with this record is that it combines both new material and new versions of older songs from both Paranoid Visions plus Steve’s previous bands, Schwartzeneggars and Stratford Mercenaries. But rather than just putting a collection of unrelated songs together, everything is chosen to create a strong cohesive album in its’ own right. The combination of different vocalists (Steve, Declan and Aoife) really works effectively, stressing different styles and emotions but combining towards a common aim. And although the lyrics are as serious and thoughtful as you would expect, the music is mostly lively and very enjoyable (particularly the exhilarating rush of ‘Loudmouth’) The new versions of ‘Where Is Love’ and ‘Art & Craft’ are great reinterpretations that really add to the original songs, while the final song of the album, ‘War’, manages to combine the drama of ‘No Doves Fly Here’ with almost ska-like rhythms. This is a great album that shows that punk rock, in terms of both style and attitude, can still be exciting and thought-provoking. For me, it’s definitely one of the best albums of 2016.
STEVE IGNORANT with PARANOID VISIONS. The Height of Ignorance 10” EP (FOAD) This is almost a sidestep from the ‘Now & Then’ album, but very much an accompanying piece. Of the six tracks included, two are from the album (‘War’ and ‘Strange Girl’) and there’s also a great new mix of ‘War’ courtesy of Mr Rat Scabies. The other tracks include a new song, the atmospheric almost spoken word ‘Ordeal’, plus covers of The Ruts’ classic ‘West One’ and ‘Hands’, originally from Steve’s post-Crass band, Schwartzeneggar. All put together in a great fold-out sleeve and pressed on purple vinyl, this is a really nice release with plenty of great songs to both enjoy and think about. Don't miss it !
INDORIA. You’ll Never Make The Six CD (Infinite Hive) Although this features the first all-new material from Chuck Mosley since VUA’s debut album in 2009, Indoria is actually a band put together by Doug and Michele Esper and so, musically, it veers away from the type of sounds you might usually associate with Mr Mosley. It’s a much more laid-back, dreamy kind of music, although if you have seen or heard any of Chuck’s acoustic outings you will know that his voice is also perfectly suited for this approach. Simple melodies drift along above the gentle rhythms, while the band layer affects to accentuate the tunes and vocals. Michele’s voice is a perfect counterpoint to Chuck’s deeper style, and the contrast in the songs really works well. Although the album only includes seven tracks, the CD adds an extra four remixes which really compliment the rest of the album rather than just sounding like fillers, and there’s a particularly great live recording of ‘Bella Donna’ featuring just Chuck and Doug (the duo seen on Chuck’s recent acoustic tours.) It’s a really good album and has plenty of potential for this band to develop even further. Track it down and try it on for size !
BRIAN JAMES. Anniversary Waltz EP (Easy Action) Limited edition four track 7” released to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of The Damned, and as the current version of the band are also doing it themselves, you can’t begrudge Mr James for getting in on the act. Side One kicks off with the version of ‘Sick of Being Sick’ from his recent ‘Damned If I Do’ album and then continues at breakneck speed with a cover of the Pink Fairies’ anthem ‘Teenage Rebel’, featuring his old sparring partner, Rat Scabies. Side Two features two new tracks, ‘I Said No’ and ‘Baby She Crazy’ that almost boil over with that trademark guitar sound. Brian can still write and play some totally rip-it-up rock’n’roll that’ll tear through your guts like a maniac. Play it loud, of course, fuck the neighbours and take no prisoners !
JEREMY & THE HARLEQUINS. Into The Night CD (YepRock) Second album (and their first for YepRock) from this New York-based band who combine the finest moments of rock’n’roll fromm every era since the Fifties. Rockabilly rhythms collide with twangy guitars and psychedelic pop sensibilites, together with an early CBGB’s style art-rock ability to keep everything interesting. Of course, none of this would count for much if they didn’t have the songs and melodies to back it up, but this band have them in plentiful supply. They know their roots well, but aren’t content to merely imitate them. Indeed, this is the kind of record that could easily cross over to a much wider audience. If you enjoy your pop with substance, this is going to be one for you.
JILTED JOHN. Jilted John 1977-2008 CD (Boss Tuneage) When the original ‘Jilted John’ single became an unlikely hit in 1978, it was certainly fun. But at the same time it was difficult to figure out if it was a chancer trying to cash-in on the punk / new wave movement or something with a bit more substance. In retrospect, of course, it transpired that Jilted John was in fact Graham Fellows, destined to become best-known as the comedy character John Shuttleworth and clearly someone who interested in creating an original persona as part of his ongoing career. This also explains the support shown to the project by the likes of John Peel and Martin Hannett, who rightly saw it as something more than just an opportunist looking for a novelty hit. Looking back, his original records are usually remembered fondly, as a great example of a one-hit wonder that sneaked into the Top Ten at a point in time when the big record companies were unable to brush such things under the carpet. As an addendum to the original story, this collection of original demos, interview clips and live recordings is an enjoyable chance to relive Jilted John’s brief appearance in the spotlight. There’s also one further footnote to add…. The previously unreleased recording of ‘My Love’s Just Begun’, recorded in 1978, includes a vocal style not a million miles away from that developed by fellow Mancunian Stephen Morrissey a few years later… ahem ! Either way, although the sound quality may vary quite a bit, this compilation puts everything in its’ original context and proves to be highly enjoyable with it.
JIM THREAT & THE VULTURES. Afraid of The Dark EP (Dr Strange.) Formed from the ashes of Threats (one of Scotland’s longest lasting Punk bands) JT & The Vultures may not be a familiar name as yet, but on the strength of the four tracks presented here, they should be making waves on the UK scene very soon. Upbeat punk rock that takes the 1977 template but infuses it with a heavier sound that really drives the songs forward, while never losing touch with the insistent melodies that hook you in the first place. ‘Psyclemania’ is propelled by a rhythm section that Motorhead would have been proud to play, while ‘Get Off’ sounds like The Adicts being produced by Black Sabbath ! Great stuff, this is certainly a band that I’ll be watching out for.
JACK LEE. Bigger Than Life CD (Alive) If you don’t already know of Jack Lee, the chances are that you do know some of his songs. ‘Hanging On The Telephone’ has always been my favourite Blondie single, but Jack Lee wrote and recorded it first with his band, The Nerves, back in 1976. He also contributed another song to ‘Parallel Lines’, namely ‘Will Anything Happen ?’ Two song-credits on one of the best Pop albums of all time… not a bad accolade. Elsewhere, he also had songs recorded by the likes of Suzi Quattro and Paul Young (needless to say, Jack’s own recording of ‘Come Back And Stay’, included here, is far superior.) This album is the first comprehensive anthology of his career, including original recordings by The Nerves and later songs from his solo releases. In many ways, this record is almost the definition of Power Pop, taking the energy and excitement of classic Sixties Beat but transcribing it into the Seventies environment. The sound strips away all the unnecessary trappings of rock production, taking it back to the basic ingredients of great melody and raw energy. Although never a ‘punk’ band, The Nerves were nonetheless an influence on the early Californian punk scene both with their enthusiastic DIY approach (they booked their own tours and self-released their own EP) and their mix of catchy melodies with a basic no-nonsense style. This album contains 23 songs and for the most part they remain timeless, just as great Pop music ought to. If you’re already familiar with Jack Lee’s work, you’ll already know that you’re going to enjoy this record, but if you’re haven’t heard his songs before, just make sure you don’t miss the opportunity.
JAMES LEG. Blood On The Keys CD (Alive) The man otherwise known as John Wesley Myers (check The Immortal Lee County Killers and the Black Diamond heavies for further reference) returns with a new album of fuzzed-up keyboards, hard-hitting drums and Tom Waits- style grumblin’ vocals. It’s equal parts Punk, Blues, Soul, Country and just plain bad-ass. It conjures up the perfect soundtrack for a night of just a few too many drinks in a dimly lit bar somewhere in the swamps… Yeah, I know, that sounds a bitmelodramatic, but when you hear this album, you’ll know exactly what I mean. And you can trust me on this one, you need to hear this album !
LEGENDARY CHARACTERS. Trip of a Lifetime CD (Cryptic Clue) I saw this band recently and they reminded me of Swell Maps, in the way that they combined the immediacy of three chord punk rock with the inventiveness of Krautrock. After the gig, I talked with their singer and he gave me a copy of this CD, whilst stressing that it wasn’t really indicative of their current set. That being said, it’s still rather intriguing. Recorded only a year ago, it also shows how quickly they’re moving along and finding their own feet. This album veers more towards the kraut tendencies, with plenty of repetitive rhythms and spaced-out guitar sounds. Think of Loop and Spacemen 3, perhaps, with a hint of Prog and Punk in the mix. The best tracks hit the mark pretty well, while others seem to meander a bit, but as a pointer to what they’re doing now, this is a good start, Check them out live as soon as you get a chance !
THE LESS THAN ANIMALS. Hew EP ( thelessthananimal.bandcamp.com ) One man effort from the wilds of Newcastle. It’s a real garage-effort (which is not meant in a derogatory way) that’s as raw as the intent behind the songs. Think of The Mummies in a pile-up with Rancid Hell Spawn and you might have an idea of the glorious racket that this set of songs generates. The vocals and guitars wrestle with each other to see who can sound the harshest, while the drum-beats barely hold themselves together and keyboards fade in and out almost at random. This is the kind of determination and chaos that can make rock’n’roll sound wonderful, regardless of the technical ability. Play it loud and you have to love it… if you don’t, you just ain’t got a heart !
LOUDER THAN LOVE – The Grande Ballroom Story DVD (Wienerworld) For those who don’t know the name, the Grande Ballroom was the venue that served as a breeding ground for Detroits’ legendary Hi-energy rock’n’roll bands in the late Sixties and early Seventies. Although the building itself had been around since the Twenties, it wasn’t until local entrepreneur Russ Gibb took over the venue that it acquired its’ notoriety. He may have been initially inspired by West Coast psychedelic events at places like the Fillmore, but the Grande was destined to live a life of its’ own. With local counter-culture support from the likes of John Sinclair and the Fifth Estate underground newspaper, the Grande was soon embracing The Stooges, The Amboy Dukes, The Rationals and, of course, the MC5 (whose classic debut ‘Kick Out the Jams’ was recorded on site.) But it was the house-policy of welcoming anything that sounded great, whatever the genre, that truly made it special. They were just as likely to book the likes of Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf or Sun Ra as they were to present the Grateful Dead or Janis Joplin. They also supported bands from further afield, with many soon-to-become hugely successful British bands like The Who, Cream and Led Zeppelin finding themselves bowled over by the venue and its’ unique scene. Add to all of this the seminal poster artwork of Gary Grimshaw, the venue’s legendary lightshow and local political activists such as the White Panther Party and it all came together to create a truly original outburst. Sadly, as with so many inspirational times and places, the Grande was only to enjoy a brief period of influence and closed its’ doors for the final time in 1972. The building itself still remains as the bare bones of what it once was, but with original attendees such as Alice Cooper, James Williamson, Wayne Kramer and Roger Daltrey helping to tell the story, this documentary goes a long way to explaining how special it was. With lots of original footage and an appropriate soundtrack, this is a film that anyone who loves rock’n’roll really has to see.
THE LOVE ME TENDERS. Demos CD (lovemetenders. bandcamp.com) You’d never guess from these demos that this is just a two-piece combo, as the drums pound away and the raw’n’raucous guitar fills up the rest of the room. The vocals fight for their own space, bravely keeping their head above water as the music erupts around them. Think what it may have sounded like if Gene Vincent had ever jammed with the Stooges… This is rock’n’roll that really isn’t afraid to take that jump from the cliff top. Catch them live and they’ve got the attitude to match it. Catch them while you can !
THE LUCK OF EDEN HALL. The End of The Lane 7” (Mega Dodo) Contemporary psychedelic rock with more than a grasp of pop sensibility. Based in Chicago, the band have been around for twenty years and have already released numerous records, garnering a loyal following and plaudits from the likes of Billy Corgan. Musically, they veer effortlessly from dreamy psych on the a-side through to more upbeat, almost power-pop on the flip. The a-side was inspired by a Neil Gaiman book, who returns the favour with a (mega) doodle illustration for the sleeve. I really enjoyed this record and I’ll definitely be trying to check out more of their releases.
MAGIC EIGHT BALL Richest Men in the Graveyard CD (Magic Cat) I saw this band supporting Chuck Mosley in Canterbury and was rather intrigued. This, their latest album, is similarly encouraging. Although certainly working within a pop-rock format, the band have enough of their own quirks to create a sense of identity and originality. There are plenty of loud guitars but it’s always the snappy tunes that hold everything in place. They manage to handle anthemic songs without letting them become cheesy or obvious, perhaps like the livelier moments of Manic Street Preachers but with a healthy infusion of powerpop. The production is suitably inventive, allowing ideas to shine through and giving the arrangements plenty of space to breathe. ‘Keep Me Out of the Sunlight’ is the real stand-out track, which combines crunching riffs with catchy melodies and a great production which could even be a hit single. Proof that rock music doesn’t have to be tired and predictable, this album is full of ideas and a lot of fun. Be sure to investigate.
MELVINS. Basses Loaded CD (Ipecac) The core Melvins (Buzz and Dale) joined by various bass players including the likes of Krist Novoselic, Steve McDonald, JD Pinkus and Trevor Dunn. But, despite the variation of personnel between tracks, this is a surprisingly solid, fluent album, sounding very much like a consistent band rather than just a bunch of musicians having fun with their friends. That being said, I don’t think it takes many chances. The Melvins are in a position where they can really distort the Hard Rock format and, indeed, at their best, they succeed in doing so. But this album, whilst effective in its’ own right, doesn’t push things as far as it could. For example, Buzz Osborne’s vocals, to my ears, bear more than a passing resemblance to Karl Blake (Shock Headed Peters.) Imagine what a collaboration between Melvins and Karl could produce ? Now that could be heavy in so many different ways, especially given the similar sense of humour… Anyway, this album is still entertaining and as good an introduction to the works of the Melvins as you’re ever going to hear. Get into this and then dig into the rest of their catalogue.
MINDFRAME. Slumped & Dumped CD (mindframe.bandcamp.com) Formed in 2013, this is the first set of recordings from London-based punk band Mindframe. As such, it has got a fairly demo-style sound, but that certainly doesn’t prevent the strong, inventive songs from making their point. The lyrics are interesting and far from obvious, bringing-up points to think about rather than making definitive statements, while the vocals, delivered by Tabitha, are committed and evocative. They seem to be playing quite a few gigs at the moment so be sure to see them live if you get the chance, but otherwise get in touch with the band and hear these songs as soon as you can.
MIRRORS FOR PSYCHIC WARFARE. S/T CD (Neurot) The second collaboration between Scott Kelly (Neurosis) and Sanford Parker (Buried At Sea) finds the duo creating yet another barely-restrained assault on the sonic plane, this time channelling the tempered power of Swans (also referencing Al Kizys’ ‘Of Cabbages & Kings’ project) through a snarling Black Sabbath soundscape. It’s disturbing and yet at the same time compelling. Vocally, Michael Gira’s influence is evident, but there are also hints of Nick Cave (when he meant it) and even Alan Vega. Musically, it’s the mix of heavy guitars and dark, appropriately atmospheric electronics that really set the tone, creating a place that is not going to let you settle. And that’s probably the best thing about it - this is not something that you will be able to ignore. One way or another, it’s going to seep right down to your bones.
MISCONDUCTERS. Circadian CD (MS Metal) Fourth album from Misconducters and easily their best so far. Original formed in London but now relocated to Brazil, they take in many influences and have a depth to their sound that allows them to create something of their own. They don’t particularly sound like Motorhead, for example, but create the same overpowering feel in their music. Similarly, they use unusual time-changes to keep the listeners on their toes, in the same way as Voivod, but without ending up sounding as if they’re just trying to copy them. There are also more than a few nods towards Hardcore, particularly in the aggressive, no-nonsense style of the vocals. Overall, it’s an unpredictable album that defies categorisation. Calling it Heavy Metal or Hard Rock just doesn’t give it the due it deserves. This is a band who are open to ideas and allow their songs to develop accordingly, rather than just settling for the easy route. The album has plenty of power and is packed full of intriguing twists and turns. Be sure to pay attention !
MONDO GENERATOR. “Best Of” CD (Heavy Psych Sounds) Nick Oliveri has been a member of many bands, most notably Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age, but it is his own Mondo Generator project that he has consistently returned to ever since their inception in 1997. Despite maintaining a reasonably high profile and having released many records, their line-up has changed many times, with Oliveri remaining the only permanent member. Along the way, you can count members of Turbonegro, The Dwarves and Winnebago Deal among their ranks, as well as the likes of Mark Lanagan, Dave Grohl and Josh Freese. Inevitably, this has resulted in noticeable differences between some of the albums, but this collection tackles that nicely by compiling the tracks in a complimentary format rather than simply listing them chronologically or otherwise. As a result, the album progresses in a natural flow rather than high-lighting particular styles or eras. Nick himself has always referred to this project as ‘punk metal’ and while that maybe a bit vague, it’s probably as close a description as you’re likely to find. Coming from a hard rock background, the songs veer in numerous directions, from metal through to punk and trashy rock’n’roll, but never resorting to anything obvious. As his past probably suggests, the riff is often the basis for the tracks, but never at the expense of the songs themselves, which remain consistently catchy through the 80 minutes worth of music. While Nick Oliveri remains a notoriously volatile character, he certainly has the talent to create great music and, while his former colleague Josh Homme may garner all the mainstream acclaim, there’s more than a strong case shown on this album that Nick makes the better music.
MONGRELS. Attack The Monolith CD (Invisible Spies) One of the best Hip-hop records I’ve heard in a long time, with a vocal approach somewhere in between Beastie Boys and Sleaford Mods. Catchy but unpredictable beats keep your foot tapping while the voices keep the rhythm moving forwards. The core of the band (Kid Acne and Benjamin) stay true to their South Yorkshire roots, while the addition of ‘honorary Mongrel’ Sebash adds a New York element to the proceedings. It’s a lot of fun but also makes its’ point with poignant lyrics and contemporary references. This is a really enjoyable album that has plenty to say as well as giving you a good time. It’s one of those records that just sounds good and it doesn’t matter what genre it’s supposed to be. Listen to it with an open mind and there’s no reason why you won’t love it.
MONSTERNAUT. S/T CD (Heavy Psych Sounds) Finnish band playing what some might call stoner rock, although to me they’re actually a lot more lively than most in that genre. Whilst the songs depend on heavy rhythm and plenty of distortion, these guys have great dynamics and the music really moves. It’s not predictable but you can tell that it’s going where it’s supposed to go, on a natural level. The grooves are infectious and their rock also has a roll, if you see what I mean. Where many bands try to imitate Sabbath by down-tuning and slowing the pace, Monsternaut have realised that the ability to let the riffs take their own route is just as important. This album is the real thing, a band who love the music and let it develop organically. Play it loud and you’ll get the point !
MoRkObOt. GoRgO CD (Supernatural Cat) It’s not easy to find-out much about this band, but I’m pretty sure they’re from Italy, this is their fifth album, and the trio consists of two bass players and a drummer. It’s a heavy, instrumental sound full of complexities and undertones, suggesting menace and unease but also drawing you into their world. The word ‘gorgo’, in Italian, refers to a whirlpool or vortex and that is entirely appropriate for this project, which creates an almost claustrophobic sense of personal situation within the relentless rhythms and time signatures. It certainly isn’t easy listening but any effort that you make may well be rewarded. I’m afraid you’ll probably be either intrigued or repelled by this album from the outset, but if you’re the former, I recommend that you give it plenty of your time and attention.
NARCS. A Thinking Animal CD (Clue) A mix of contemporary hard rock and post-punk angst, thankfully veering away from emo territory which could easily have ruined what has ended-up as a rather impressive set. Aiming their lyrics more towards the current political climate of apathy and resignation in the UK, rather than indulging their personal growing-pains, NARCS sound convincingly emotive and thoughtful as they rail against the status quo. Indeed, this is what young bands ought to be doing, making a stand against the shit that their generation has inherited. Musically, they mix post hardcore (Helmet, Quicksand) with the tempered approach of Sonic Youth to present a fluent yet spiky soundtrack. What it lacks in tunes, it certainly makes-up for in sonic innovation and sheer energy. It’s a very promising album and NARCS may well prove to be a band worth keeping on your radar.
OBAKE. Draugr. CD (Rare Noise) Experimental avant metal from Italy, that draws on influences as varied as Krautrock, thrash, drone, industrial and even grunge to fulfil their vision of atmospheric hard rock. Vocals veer between understated, almost spoken passages to full-on assaults, perfectly complimenting the sonic nightmare/ dreamscape that they produce. While they certainly know how to deliver the power when it is needed, it’s their tendencies to develop more restrained moments as a counterpoint which really makes the album effective. It takes a well-established rock format but breathes new life into it, realising something that demands to be heard.
OCTOPUS SYNG. Hollow Ghost/Rochelle Salt CD (Mega Dodo) You wouldn’t usually think of Finland as a source for Sixties-style psychedelia, but this album is here to redress the balance. Apparently initiated by frontman Jaire Patari as a solo project, he released two albums before Octopus Syng grew into a full band. This is their second album as such and embraces a whimsical, almost melancholic style that, as the band-name suggests, owes quite a debt to the influence of Syd Barrett (not that this is in anyway a bad thing.) Their style also has hints of West Coast bands like Love and moments of playfulness to ensure that it never becomes one-dimensional or predicatable. The overall effect is convincing enough to make it an album that will surely be appreciated by fans of both original and contemporary psychedelia.
PETROL GIRLS. Talk of Violence CD (Bomber Music) Angry, impassioned feminist vocals delivered over a soundtrack of jagged, erratic rhythms, recalling the likes of At The Drive-in, Fugazi, Bikini Kill and even Gang of Four. Named after female anarchists of the Paris commune, the band have set themselves up with a comparison that, from the emotional performance of this record, they totally intend to follow through. It’s a brave and iconoclastic record that takes a traditionally male format (loud guitars, driving rhythms) and infuses it with a strong feminist outlook. It is an aggressive record and I hope that doesn’t alienate potential supporters, but as a mission-statement, it certainly gives them plenty of room to subvert expectations. As such, it’s an adrenalin-rush of passion and intent that should excite both your feet and your mind. This simply demands to be heard.
THE PHANTOMS. The Phantoms CD (Rum Bar) The name conjures up images of rockabilly and while the ensuing music certainly owes something to that genre, the band have equal amounts of input from Sixties garage bands and even more recent guitar-based combo’s like the Young Fresh Fellows or Hoodoo Gurus. There’s also an obvious affinity with the harder edges of Seventies Glam rock, most clearly shown with ‘The Ballad of Overend Watts’, their tribute to Mott The Hoople’s bass supremo (although to my ears, it’s Mick Ronson whose influence is most noticeable on this stomper…) They have a genuine swagger to their delivery which at times recalls the Stones at their sleazy-best, while at other moments they’re also able to effortlessly switch into a convincing Country style. They obviously know their rock’n’roll history, from the Fifties through to the present day, and aren’t afraid to put that knowledge to good use in creating a damn fine album. The more you listen, the more you’ll love it !
POISON IDEA. Company Party LP (Voodoo Doughnut) There have been a few live albums from Poison Idea over the years and they’re all worth catching, but this one has got to be the most fun ! Recorded live in their hometown, Portland, it captures them at their very best – as powerful and intense as you’d want them to be, but also having a blast ! Sound quality is superb and the setlist is something really special. Don’t trust the tracks listed on the sleeve – what you’re going to get are mind-blowing covers of everything from ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘Born to Lose’, ‘I Don’t Care About You’, ‘Motorhead’ (appropriately listed on the sleeve as ‘The Best’) and even a great version of ‘Shot By Both Sides’, with Jerry respectfully toning down his vocals to handle it with style !) And, of course, there are plenty of their own classics – ‘Plastic Bomb’, ‘Taken By Surprise’, ‘Alan’s On Fire’, ‘Cop An Attitude’… As I’ve said before, the current PI line-up easily matches any of their previous incarnations and even though Pig Champion is no longer there, you get the impression that he’d be enjoying this album as much as the rest of us. Limited to only 1000 copies… don’t be an asshole, just buy it !
POISON IDEA. Calling All Ghosts EP (American Leather.) Five new tracks that kick-off at a furious pace with the title track, a furious rampage of a song that recalls Motorhead at their most abrasive. ‘The Big Lie’ follows next and keeps up the pace. You can tell that Eric Olson (from the original ‘Filthkick’ / ‘Kings of Punk’ line-up) is back in the band, with the sound recalling that era but now with a great production that really does justice to the sheer power of the band. ‘Roses Are Fake’ takes a more tempered pace, with Jerry’s vocals alternating between a Danzig-style croon and his more usual growl. ‘Dedicated’ is the shortest and fastest track on the EP, a total shot of adrenalin, while the record ends with ‘Down Again’, a slower but no less effective slice of hardcore desperation. And as if the songs aren’t enough, this all comes as a great, one-sided colour-vinyl 12” with a neat etching of the PI logo on the other side. You totally need this !
IGGY POP. Post Pop Depression LP (Caroline) When it was first released, I was skeptical about this album for several reasons. Firstly, it’s dubious when reviewers immediately start declaring something a masterpiece seemingly on first hearing, and secondly because, frankly, I think Josh Homme is rather overrated. When I got to hear the record, I enjoyed it but wasn’t bowled-over and it certainly took some time to really appreciate it. It has a pretty subtle atmosphere and it takes a while to really get into the feel of it. The comparisons to ‘The Idiot’ are probably fair and I’d also suggest some similarities with the hugely under-rated ‘Zombie Birdhouse, but in truth this album has its’ own set of references and tones. I have to admit, credit to the ‘celebrity’ musicians for doing a proper job and not trying to showboat themselves. They provide a great landscape for Iggy to explore with his lyrics and the songs come together like episodes from an underground movie. So, I have to say, I was wrong about Josh Homme et all on this occasion, and this is a fine album. But I still don’t trust the press reviews… these are the same twats who ignored the wonderful ‘Ready To Die’ and ‘Preliminaires’ albums, so what do they know ? But, whatever, this album deserves its’ success and Iggy could never be accused of not having earned it.
RADIO MOSCOW. Live ! In California CD (Alive) San Diego’s hardest hitting power trio caught in the environment where they make the most sense - live onstage with the amplifiers cranked all the way up and the audience feeding them the energy and atmosphere that makes their music thrive. Imagine the Jimi Hendrix Experience jamming to the death with Blue Cheer. This is heavy music and makes no excuses for it. That being said, it certainly doesn’t lack imagination, with psychedelic flavours and even moments that recall Helios Creed’s innovative guitar exploits in the legendary Chrome. There’s a great artistry to the interplay of these three musicians, even while the riffs are slamming you into the wall. Radio Moscow clearly know exactly what they’re doing and in this 75 minute set, you’ll hear them at their best. Don’t miss it.
RANCID HELL SPAWN. Eat My Cigarette EP(Wrench.) Five tracks of manic noise punk, with the three chord ethic reduced to an almost industrial grade of distortion. The funny thing is that there’s always a catchy melody or riff at the basis of each track and you’ll still find your foot tapping away even if the noise levels are giving you a headache. The artwork perfectly reflects the music-enclosed, absurdist and unsettling but also with a distinct sense of humour. No idea what the lyrics are saying but it’s probably best that way - you can just figure something out if you want to. But don’t think about it too much – just fall into this primal scream and let yourself wallow in it. Sometimes, that’s the best way to enjoy life !
THE REBELLES. All The Young Dudes CDEP (Turtle) Firstly, despite it’s iconic status I’ve never been a big fan of this song, although it’s probably got more to the fact that it gets played to death more than anything else. It’s neither Bowie or the Motts’ finest moment and it gets much more credit than it deserves, but only in comparison to the superior material both of those artists produced. That being said, this version does have a twist. The Rebelles are a female vocal trio featuring Tracie Hunter (daughter of Ian) Elizabeth Westwood (ex-Westworld) and Phoebe White, who have assembled a cast of musical legends to create their own unique take of the song. Glen Matlock, James Stevenson (Generation X) and the man himself, Ian Hunter, join various others to create a fine musical foundation from which the rich, luscious vocals take their cue. Probably not setting out as a tribute to Bowie, but certainly a warm farewell, this is something for fans and lovers of musical talent alike. I wasn’t sure if it was going to impress me, but once it was coming through the speakers, there was nothing to argue about.
THE RIGHT HERE. Stick To The Plan CD (Rum Bar.) Remember that period of time when, alongside all the grunge, SubPop were also releasing great rock’n’roll records by the likes of The Dwarves, Supersuckers and Reverend Horton Heat ? Well, that’s what this album brings to mind. Straight outta Minneapolis (where the influence of the Replacements was surely part of the mix) The Right Here play rousing, boisterous rock’n’roll with loud guitars and serious attitude. Never short of a catchy hook, they play a mix of Country and Punk, but put it together so naturally that it never sounds contrived. Great lyrics that veer from serious heartbreak through to drunken revels (‘Judge Me When I’m Sober’) delivered with vocals that sound like a raucous version of Buffalo Tom. I’d love to see these guys playing live because you get the impression from this album that it would be a real blast. Hopefully we’ll get the chance one day, but in the meantime, be sure not to miss this record.
RUTS DC. Music Must Destroy LP (Sosumi) Their first ‘rock’ album since ‘Animal Now’, way back in 1981, so there were big expectations which, I’m glad to say, have been fully met. That being said, I doubt that anyone who has seen the band in action over the past few years will be surprised that they’ve produced something as good as this. Segs and Ruffy are still one of the best rhythm sections you’ll ever see, whilst Segs’ vocals are now stronger and so much more confident than they ever were. In addition, Leigh Heggarty has not only managed to fill Paul Fox’s place but has added much of his own character to the proceedings. Consequently, this isn’t just a good album, it’s a classic that more than lives up to the bands’ existing legacy. Obviously, it’s more than 35 years since ‘The Crack’, so things have naturally moved on, but it’s clearly the same band with the same purpose. The album starts with ‘Psychic Attack’, a track which possibly most resembles the original Ruts and bristles with lyrics about anxiety, albeit on a more personal level. ‘Music Must Destroy’ is like a statement of intent, played at a more tempered pace and para-phasing The Clash, but still standing against the status quo that allows the rich to manipulate the poor. ‘Surprise’ seems to be a commentary on the failure of the ‘left’ in recent years, with Blairs’ opportunist approach neatly summed-up in the line ‘champagne for the homeless never got that far…’, while ‘Second Hand Child’ deals with the abuse of innocence. Elsewhere, ‘Peace Bomb’ channels the spirit of Marc Bolan in a glam-pop track with a lyric that might easily have been from a reggae song. The album builds to a finale with the boisterous, upbeat ‘Vox Teardrop’, which is probably the noisiest and most vibrant moment on the whole record, before ‘Golden Boy’ (presumably addressing the memory of Malcolm Owen) ends the record on a beautifully sombre note. This is an album of many different emotions, themes and tempo’s, but it’s always Ruts DC. Thoughtful, exciting and unique, I can only imagine the most cynical naysayer being disappointed. You have to hear this album.
SCHEISSE MINNELLI. A 5th of Skatehoven EP (Destiny) Hard-working skate-core band based in Germany but featuring two Americano’s in their ranks. Having played over 600 gigs as far apart as Mexico and Indonesia (plus many locations in between) they are, as you’d expect, tighter than a crusties’ wallet, delivering four new tracks at breakneck speed that are most reminiscent of classic RKL. Three of the songs are their own compositions, covering topics ranging from contemporary politics to hangovers, and the finale comes in the shape of an instrumental where Beethoven is given the full-on skate-punk make-over ! Limited to only 500 copies in lovely splattered-purple vinyl and packaged in an excellent cartoon sleeve, this is a great piece of raging punk rock that would even have a paraplegic slamming around his bedroom !
SEX PISTOLS. Anarchy in Cleethorpes LP (A Limited Amount) Here’s the good news – this is a recording that hasn’t been available on vinyl before now. The bad news is that it seems to have been recovered from the original tape just before it turned to dust. So don’t expect high or even medium quality sound. That being said, this captures the band in December ’76 (one of the hastily arranged gigs booked to fill-in for all the cancellations on the ‘Anarchy’ tour) with an audience that are clearly uncertain of what they were witnessing. There’s healthy cheering between some songs and chants of ‘What a load of rubbish’ between others, which really illustrates how divisive the band were at the time. It’s an interesting LP rather than an essential one and I doubt if you’d want to play it very often, but it captures the time and place much more effectively than any museum retrospective is ever going to manage.
THE SHAPES. Don’t Play Tennis / We’re Not Very Famous 7” (Sofa Records) Celebrating 39 Years (much more cool than 40) of Anarchy and Baked Beans, The Shapes revive themselves and Sofa Records to release what might have been (and now is) their third single. And trust me, there is nothing about this little gem that you’re not going to like. Unless you have no heart and soul, in which case, please go away. This is Punk Rock with Buzzcocks-style tunes and a Cravats-style sense of humour, so it’s easy to see why the mighty John Peel loved them to bits. Two tracks dating from a long time ago but only recorded recently (by all original members, incidentally) that will have you grinning in(s)anely and bouncing around your living room, whether friends and family can see you or not. A glorious celebration of rebellion and eccentricity, this is the genuine article. Never Mind the Retrospectives, this is what Punk Rock was, is, and always will be about.
SLOWCOACHES. Nothing Gives CD (Leisure & District) This is great, brash fun ! It’s easily one of the best punk rock albums I’ve heard from a new band in a long time. Fuzzed-up guitars recall the classics Ramones / Buzzcocks chainsaw sound, while the lead vocals and harmonies hint at The Muffs at their best. Combine this with the more melodic moments from the Grunge era and you’ll be heading somewhere in the right direction. Although recorded in a snappy 48 hour period in London, the album was then produced in LA (well, at least the tapes got a vacation out of it.) The results are well worth the diversion. The sound is huge, really blasting out of the speakers, but also maintaining a great clarity to ensure that the catchy guitar hooks and tunes are never lost. While the songs are upbeat, the lyrics deal with a whole range of real-life issues, keeping it very much in the punk rock realm. I played this album the first time and it hasn’t been far from the deck ever since. Totally insistent, just play it loud and let yourself get hooked !
STALINS OF SOUND. Biology Museum. Cassette (Volar) San Diego band who mix guitars, synth, vocals and drum machine to great punk rockin’ effect. At their more melodic, they sound how the Epoxies might have been, had they been more influenced by 77/78 punk bands like Sham 69 or UK Subs rather than the new wave of the same era. At other points, they get a bit more rowdy, with hardcore-style rhythms and a more post-punk approach, perhaps bringing to mind a beautiful mutation of early Devo and Big Black. The only current comparison would probably be The Spits, so if you enjoy their punk-noise assault, the Stalins of Sound really ought to be your next port of call. Loads of energy, attitude and noise, but always with a catchy hook. What more do you need ?
THIRSTY. Albatross CD (Thirsty) Formed by former Quireboys guitarist Guy Bailey, Thirsty play a blues-based style of rock’n’roll that, instead of indulging itself, sticks neatly to the three minute pop-song format. There’s plenty of musicianship on show (featuring his old Quireboys teammate Chris Johnstone and Death in Vegas member Simon Hanson, amongst others) but it stays reined-in by the time constraints, which keep it all about the songs rather than the virtuosity. Lyrically, the songs take references as varied as Coleridge, Bunyan and Virginia Woolf, enhanced by the talents of Russian poet Irina D to create a convincing atmospheric tone. This is the kind of album that could easily have become overblown, but the production and arrangements keep it all in place and it’s all the better for it. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I enjoyed this a lot.
THRALLDOM. Time Will Bend Into Horror LP (Ritual Productions) The first recordings in over a decade from this experimental Black Metal duo, who create atmospheric soundtracks for tortured tales of despair and frustration. Compelling, heavily distorted riffs form the basis of their vision, only for the spell to be broken as the pace descends into moments of psychedelia or industrial tone. But instead or disrupting the continuity of the album, this actually adds to the effectiveness of the material, as it serves to accentuate the harder moments whilst also offering respite from the repetitive rhythms. As well as the obvious Black Metal influences, you could probably also include the likes of Gore, Amebix or Of Cabbages And Kings among the comparisons. This will appeal to fans of Noise or Industrial just as much as Metal and, in it’s brutal sonic assault, it’s an incredibly effective album indeed.
JOHNNY THUNDERS. So Alone LP (Remarquable) The quest to release definitive vinyl editions of Johnny Thunders’ 1978 recorded output culminates with a deluxe version of his excellent ‘So Alone’ album. Remastered and pressed on high quality coloured vinyl, this sounds better than ever and comes with an additional EP of contemporary non-album singles-tracks plus previously unreleased versions of ‘So Alone’ and ‘The Wizard’. The artwork has been restored from the original source material and the package also includes a 16 page 12-by-12” booklet containing rare photo’s and memorabilia, which will be a treat for any fan. But as great as this looks, the important thing is the album itself. If anyone is in any doubt of the talent that Mr Genzale possessed, this is the album to prove them wrong. With a cast of legends on hand to complete the record (take a deep breath and start counting… Steve Jones, Paul Cook, Phil Lynott, Peter Perrett, Mike Kellie, Paul Gray, Steve Nichol, Barrie Masters, Walter Lure, Billy Rath, Patti Pallidin, Steve Marriott, Chrissie Hynde… plus an great production from Steve Lillywhite) this really was an album that should have established Johnny as a major star. Opening with a blistering version of the instrumental ‘Pipeline’, you immediately hear Johnny’s natural guitar ability at it’s very best, while elsewhere you get echoes of the Dolls’ swagger (‘Subway Train’ and ‘Great Big Kiss’) and the Heartbreakers’ Lower East Side attitude (‘London Boys’ and ‘Downtown’.) And all of this is before I even mention ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory’, a song that’s as close to perfect as anything ever gets. Seriously, I can’t think of anything that would make this song even better. And you could pretty-much say that for the whole album… It really should have been a massive success and you have to wonder, if anyone else had released it would things have turned out differently ? Johnny certainly had his demons and they did contrive to derail his efforts, however good the music may have been. But it’s pointless thinking about how things should have turned out in hindsight. All you really need to know is that this album was and still is a classic. This reinvigorated version will be a treat for old fans and a real kick in the eye for anyone who hasn’t heard it before. Grab it while you can.
VEILBURNER. Obscene Rite LP ( www.veilburner.bandcamp.com/album/the-obscene-rite ) Pennsylvania-based experimental Black Metal duo that combine psychedelic, industrial and prog-rock influences in a suitably dark fashion. This is actually the third part of a trilogy that combines themes of sci-fi and the occult in a lyrical style that is somewhat hampered by the growled vocals – I’d like to hear more of what they’re singing about ! That being said, the themes and psychedelia do seem to take some cues from early Voivod, which isn’t a bad thing. It has all the power of the best Black Metal, but instead of merely staying on the one track, they intersperse the bursts of raw power with interludes of different tones and atmosphere, creating both a change of pace and texture without losing their momentum. It all adds up to a much more impressive album, one that’s more focused on the arrangement as a whole rather than just the individual songs. It’s something that will impress both fans of heavy riffs and those who want their sounds to be a little more experimental. Well worth your investigation.
THE WALL. Damnation Disco. 12” (Riskaverse) The first brand new recordings from The Wall in over 30 years and they don’t disappoint. It’s a heavier rock sound, in some ways, but the original elements are still there. They take a basic structure but then twist it in their own direction, creating something that corrupts your expectations even as you listening to it. Of the two tracks, ‘The Antagonist’ is possibly the better, with a huge sound and velocity that most recalls their older material, but ‘Damnation Disco’ certainly lives up to its’ apocalyptic title, with a slower intimidating pace and imposing vocals. The release all comes together with a great gatefold sleeve featuring both old and new images. I’m just hoping that the band find a way to continue with more new songs and further gigs. This sounds better every time I play it, so let’s hope it leads to more !
WERECATS. Demos CD Four songs that sound like a mix of the Ramones and the Fastbacks, with dual female vocals, buzzing guitar and a solid three chord rhythm section. There’s a sense of humour in the lyrics and while the recordings might be a bit basic, you can feel the fun from the first note until the last. You can get copies of this at their gigs while we wait for a brand new record to head our way…
WHORES. Gold CD (Steamhammer) Debut album from this Atlanta, Georgia based band who mix elements of more left-field metallic bands like Helmet or Prong with an almost hardcore aggression. With a production that draws out the ideas and inventiveness of the songs, they accentuate the power of their guitar sound and rhythms by setting them against unpredictable moments of sparse instrumentation and electronic intermissions. It all adds to the ongoing tension rather than just relying on a relentless assault. At times, you can hear hints of the Melvins, Fugazi, even Scratch Acid, which all add to the depth of the album in its’ entirety. This is clearly a band that are intent on creating a style of their own and are willing to cast their net wide to gain the necessary inspiration. It will be interesting to hear how they develop, but in the meantime, this is a really promising debut and it certainly deserves your attention.
WILL Z. A New Mirrored You CD (G.O.D Records) I wasn’t sure what to expect from this and the more I listened, the more there was to consider. Mostly set at a very restrained pace, this is a well-crafted set of songs that mostly reference the late Sixties, with hints of film soundtracks of that time sharing space with French Pop influences, and mellow psychedelia blending together with vocals that at times recall certain aspects of John Lennon or Donovan. ‘Psychedelic Church’, a four-minute mostly-instrumental track (apart from chanted voices) is perhaps the most upbeat moment on the album, verges on krautrock influences at times and even threatens to build into a real freak-out ending, although it manages to maintain it’s decorum and the tone of the album as a whole. This is a really interesting and enjoyable album, probably not what I’d usually listen to, but who wants to stay in just one room anyway ?
X-RAY SPEX. Oh Bondage…Up Yours ! 7” (Art-I-Ficial) Not a reissue of the original single, but a version recorded live for a TV show in 1978. The sound quality is good and captures a raw performance with loads of energy, while the b-side features a alternative version of ‘Identity’, not that much different to the single itself, but something of interest nonetheless. Great picture sleeve, green vinyl… Go on, treat yourself !